England’s Lauren Hemp believes she has yet to show her best form at Euro 2022 and revealed that Lego and paint-by-numbers help her relax in her downtime.
The 21-year-old winger has started in every game at the tournament and scored her first Euros goal in the 8-0 demolition of Norway in Brighton last week.
The Lionesses are back on the south coast on Wednesday as they take on Spain in the quarter-finals, and Hemp says she is yet to reach the peak of her powers.
“It takes time,” she said in a pre-Spain press conference. “It’s my first major tournament with England, in front of so many fans and it’s nerve-wracking, I’m not going to lie. It’s just being consistent as well, it’s something I’m striving towards.
“Personally, I don’t think you’ve seen the best yet, it takes time and it will take a while. I’m still learning and I need to remember that I’m still so young. I’m taking it all in my stride.
“I’ve got a great group around me who are supporting me and are doing amazing as well. It’s important that we continue this run, everyone has taken confidence from the recent games and it’s important that we take that into the quarter-finals.
“I’m so lucky to be given an opportunity to play a massive role in recent games. I’m just thankful to be part of this fantastic squad.
“We’ve got such an amazing depth as well, anyone can come on and change a game. You’ve seen that in recent games as well… and it’s important we carry that on. I’m enjoying being here and love playing in such big games and long may that continue.”
England have based themselves at the impressive Lensbury resort in south west London, and while there is plenty of focus and training, there is also enough downtime where the players can unwind.
And Hemp revealed some interesting past times that she uses to help keep herself occupied.
“I like to keep myself busy, I enjoy my Lego, so I’m always doing that in my room and paint by numbers, things like that just to keep me occupied because I don’t always like sitting there and watching TV, I like cracking on with things.
“At the moment, I’m doing a typewriter [in Lego]. It’s random, but I picked the first one I’d seen and got it sent to The Lensbury.
“I enjoy playing table tennis, things like that… I don’t like to think about the game too much, I like to keep it simple as a player. As soon as game day hits, I’m focused.”
Lauren Hemp on England practising penalties
“Anything can happen in knockout stages and it’s important that we’re all prepared if we need to take a penalty.
“We’ve been practicing that to make sure we’re prepared. It’s not just started recently, but something we’ve done throughout the tournament and before.
“We’ve tried to replicate it [a game situation] as much as possible, the staff have been fantastic at that, finding different strategies to make sure we’re the best prepared team.
“All of us have experienced penalty shootouts before, so we’re a very experienced group who have been involved in that pressure situation.
“We all know what that’s like and have been in pressurised situations so hopefully when it comes, we won’t be as nervous taking them.”
‘We have respect for Spain, but we’ve done our preparation’
Spain will not present a hugely new challenge for England. They faced them earlier this year in a 0-0 draw in Arnold Clark Cup, with Hemp emerging as the star for the Lionesses.
However, the winger believes she has come a long way since the match in February and although Spain will be a tough challenge, the Lionesses are ready.
“I’ve developed massively [since the Arnold Clark Cup game]. A lot of it has been under coaching from Sarina and Arjen [Veurink] and back at Manchester City as well,” she said.
“I’ve learned a lot as a player the last few months, it’s only helped me grow. There’s a lot to take from that tournament to now – you’re in pressurised situations there, even though it was a friendly tournament. There’s still things we can take into the Euros so it’s great to have that.
“I’ve experienced large crowds, for example at FA Cup finals, where large groups of fans are coming to support which is fantastic. It only helps them coming into a pressurised environment, that it helps to settle the nerves and be about to enjoy the football.
“Spain are going to be fantastic, I’ve got a lot of respect for them, as do the team. They’re going to be a great side, play possession-based football. We’re ready for that, we’ve done all the preparation needed for it.
“There’s a lot of girls who are going to be at City next season, people that I’m going to get to know as well and people we’ve played against before. We know what they’re like and we’re going to make sure we’re the best-prepared team going into the game.
“We know they have a lot of threats, but we also know there are opportunities to exploit and we’re definitely going to try and do that.
“I’ve watched a few of their games throughout the tournament, they’re a great side but we know that on our day, we can beat anyone and that’s what we’re going to make sure we do.”
Preparing in the ‘nightmare’ UK heat, but without Wiegman
It has not been the most conventional build-up to a quarter-final at a European Championships for England. There has been record-breaking heat across the UK and the squad are still without manager Sarina Wiegman, who remains isolated from the squad due to Covid-19.
“It’s way too hot for me,” she said. “We were up early this morning to get training done because it’s been so hot and it’s only going to get hotter.
“It’s important to get these sessions done and try not to get too hot. It’s been a nightmare really, but it’s nice to get some sun because when do we ever get it, but they could’ve picked a better time.
“The heat is a contributing factor. It’s not great, but it’s something we can’t control. It’s important that we stick to our job and not be out in the sun for too long.
“It’s not great for the skin and you can get tired quite easily. It’s one of those things and you’ve just got to carry on as we normally do. We train earlier just to make sure we’re not too affected by it.
“It’s been different [without Sarina]. Covid is still around and it’s a frustrating thing. It’s unfortunate that she’s got it, but we practised for so long with these scenarios and what would happen. She’s still involved in the sessions remotely as well, so it’s good to have that.
“We still have a fantastic technical staff that have carried on supporting us. It doesn’t feel that different to be honest, she’s still there, she’s still supporting us whether that is remotely or in person as well.”
Keep up with all the latest from Euro 2022 across Sky Sports and Sky Sports News this summer.
Coverage will be anchored by Sky Sports WSL presenter Caroline Barker, alongside Jessica Creighton and Kyle Walker. Meanwhile, Karen Carney, Sue Smith, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Laura Bassett will give analysis throughout the tournament.
They will also be joined by experienced England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and Manchester City defender Esme Morgan.
The pundits and presenters will work from the Sky Sports Women’s Euro 2022 Mobile Presentation Bus, which will follow the Sky Sports News team around the country to the various stadiums where matches are being played.
In addition, Sky Sports’ Essential Football Podcast will be rebranded for the tournament to Sky Sports Women’s Euros Podcast from 21 June. Hosted by Charlotte Marsh and Anton Toloui, it will feature exclusive news and player interviews in addition to a strong programme line-up around the tournament.
The knock-out phase…
Wednesday July 20
Quarter-final 1: England v Spain – kick-off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
Thursday July 21
Quarter-final 2: Germany v Austria – kick-off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Friday July 22
Quarter-final 3: Sweden v Runners-up Group D – kick-off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village
Saturday July 23
Quarter-final 4: France v Netherlands – kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
Tuesday July 26
Semi-final 1: Winners quarter-final 1 v Winners quarter-final 3 – kick-off 8pm, Bramall Lane
Wednesday July 27
Semi-final 2: Winners quarter-final 2 v Winners quarter-final 4 – kick-off 8pm, Stadium MK
Sunday July 31
Winners semi-final 1 v Winners semi-final 2 – kick-off 5pm, Wembley
What’s happened so far…
Wednesday July 6
Group A: England 1-0 Austria
Thursday July 7
Group A: Norway 4-1 Northern Ireland
Friday July 8
Group B: Spain 4-1 Finland
Group B: Germany 4-0 Denmark
Saturday July 9
Group C: Portugal 2-2 Switzerland
Group C: Netherlands 1-1 Sweden
Sunday July 10
Group D: Belgium 1-1 Iceland
Group D: France 5-1 Italy
Monday July 11
Group A: Austria 2-0 Northern Ireland
Group A: England 8-0 Norway
Tuesday July 12
Group B: Denmark 1-0 Finland
Group B: Germany 2-0 Spain
Wednesday July 13
Group C: Sweden 2-1 Switzerland
Group C: Netherlands 3-2 Portugal
Thursday July 14
Group D: Italy1-1 Iceland
Group D: France 2-1 Belgium
Friday July 15
Group A: Northern Ireland 0-5 England
Group A: Austria 1-0 Norway
Saturday July 16
Group B: Finland 0-3 Germany
Group B: Denmark 0-1 Spain
Sunday July 17
Group C: Switzerland 1-4 Netherlands
Group C: Sweden 5-0 Portugal
Monday July 18
Group D: Iceland vs France – kick off 8pm, New York Stadium
Group D: Italy vs Belgium – kick off 8pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium